Committee on Finance. - Prohibition of Forcible Entry and Occupation Bill, 1970: Report Stage (Resumed).
Wednesday, 14 July 1971
Dáil Eireann Debate
Dr. Browne: It is a surprising fact that the form of words can have such extremely far-reaching effects. We are not really primarily concerned with the fact that the powers of ownership are being transferred as such, but the  power of the owner to retake possession of property vested in another person is our concern. We are concerned that the person in whom the power would be vested would be a person who would exercise discretion and care in the discharge of his role as a law enforcement officer which is, in fact, what he would be. We are introducing into the country at present this idea of special service units, supernumerary gardaí, effectively private police forces, who are at the call of anyone who simply has money enough to employ them and who are responsible to him just so long as he continues to pay them. This appears to be an undesirable departure in the circumstances. If anybody is needed to enforce the law we believe the gardaí are perfectly competent to do that and we do not think a case has been made for handing this particular power over to anybody. Can a person with money designate an individual with no special skill or knowledge of the job required to be done, a person who has no rights, or powers, or functions to delimit or restrict in any way the activities of others?
Dr. Browne: Nobody that I know of has any such rights unless these rights are given to him under this Bill. Perhaps the Minister could tell us something about that. No warrant which can be issued, no insignia, no mark, no uniform, no way in which to identify, as in the case of the gardaí, nothing to indicate that he has a right to do whatever it is he proposes to do, a right to evict an individual and his family from a house of which he may have taken possession, simply because of the failure of the Government to provide housing.
A man has no house. It may be a very cold, a very wet, a very wild night and he and his family have nowhere to go except into this house. It is wildly irresponsible of the Minister to incorporate such a loosely worded provision in this Bill, a provision which will allow a wealthy German, a wealthy Frenchman, a wealthy Dutchman or a  wealthy Dane to buy up property here and, because he probably cannot even speak the language, he will be forced to employ an Irishman to go along and assert his right as an owner and evict somebody, somebody of the type mentioned by Deputy Cooney earlier, somebody who has been in a house for many, many years, and generations of his family before him. This man and his family may be evicted. It may be an unfortunate man, his wife and children, with no house at all.
No identifying qualifications are included in this section in respect of either the individual or the agency. Under this section anybody who happens to join a security organisation can be employed in this fashion. In fact, he need not join a security organisation at all, as someone mentioned earlier. It could be an advertisement in the paper: “Wanted an individual who will clear a wife and family out of a house for me. Must be able to achieve results and will be paid on those results.” It is as simple and as crude as that. Any individual who happens to want a few pounds can come along and look for the job of getting rid of these unfortunate people from some property, a property which may be deliberately held empty over a matter of months, or even years, a property being held empty by an individual as a speculative venture, a property he will insist on holding empty because he is waiting to get as big a price as he can for it. This man will have the right to appoint his own private police force in order to achieve his particular objective in regard to this piece of property.
Are we to take it there is no serious difference between any member of the public who volunteers for this rather dirty, unpleasant, distasteful kind of work and the qualifications and expert knowledge of a member of the Garda? I do not think there is any doubt that special knowledge is needed in a situation of this kind. Our police force is particularly concerned with the keeping of the peace. The Garda Síochána did not become expert at their job overnight. They are men who are heirs to a good tradition. There are complaints from time to time about members of the Garda but generally speaking, and  as I said earlier I had some experience of meeting them when I was in protest movements and in that way in conflict with them, they are able to exercise remarkable patience and forbearance under very difficult circumstances. It is not an accident that they are able to behave like that. It is largely due to the fact that as the years have gone by and as the various authorities in control of the Garda have learned the important prerequisites of a good policeman the standards for entry into the Garda have increased and they are now very stringent and rigid standards. They are the end product of many years of practical experience in handling difficult and distasteful situations of law enforcement of this kind.
Let us take the man who believes that he has what the Minister called a high moral right to stay in his house because his father was there, his grandfather was there, he grew up there and he hoped to make a home for his own family there. For that reason he felt very strongly indeed that he had a right to stay there. When that person is approached he is, understandably, going to be a very difficult person to deal with. One cannot send in anybody off the streets and say to him, “Get him out” without the possibility of serious repercussions either for the man who goes in to try to get him out or for the unfortunate man who is to be evicted.
Let us take the man who, with his wife and his three or four children, goes in, under appalling pressure, to a house because he has no hope and frequently it is no fault of his, he may or may not have the money for a house, whatever the reason he finds himself and his family to be homeless in all kinds of weather. He looks for shelter in a house because he has nowhere else to go. If that man is approached by an individual who is told “Do the job and you will get paid”—an individual who more than likely will try to cut corners and will not stop short, as we know from the Hume Street incident, of using strong-arm tactics—that individual, vested under this section with the power to evict forcibly an individual by virtue  of his right of ownership established by this section, is dealing with an extremely potential explosive situation. Doctors, nurses and lawyers all have their little bit of expert knowledge of how to handle difficult situations. Their knowledge grows and expands as the years go by and they are less and less likely to make mistakes the longer they find themselves dealing with situations of this kind, but under this section any man at all, he might be a butcher, a doctor, a soldier, a lawyer, a builder's labourer, a TD or a Senator, can go along and attempt to deal with a man who has already suffered the humiliation of being unable to find a home for his family.
The Minister talked in a very patronising, paternalistic and benevolent tone about this man and his family. He said that they would not be hard on him and as long as he gets out peacefully, as long as he does not bar himself in, as long as he does not drop the snub on the lock and so long as he does not turn a key in the lock nobody will lay a finger on him, no one will touch him. Could any of us not put ourselves in the position of this unfortunate man with our young children and our wife in a derelict building, which we hate being in anyway, which is most uncomfortable, which is unheated, which has no lighting, which is probably leaking and which is probably rat-infested? We do not want to stay but we are there simply and solely because the Minister and his colleagues, acting in their capacity as Government, have failed to provide us with housing accommodation. It is not our fault, it is the fault of the Minister and his colleagues. The Minister then has the impertinence to incorporate in a section of his law a provision which allows a strong-arm bullyboy to come along to this unfortunate, destitute, homeless family and say: “Get out on the side of the street, this belongs to Herr Somebody-or-Other of Munich”—Hamburg, Paris, Amsterdam or wherever it may be—“As an Irishman and as a father of a family you have no right to stay here.” At best they may offer him a place in Griffith Barracks in which his family is divided and as I said the other day  the right of the integrity of the family as a basic unit of our society is taken away from him. The man can be put out in order to make way for the speculator or the bulldozers who have priority in our society, time and time again.
Dr. Browne: Our concern is with the people who blunder into a situation of this kind or who could blunder into a situation of this kind, people who do not fully appreciate the kind of emotional stress endured by this unfortunate man and his family and lack the understanding and experience in dealing with this sort of situation which we would normally expect from members of the Garda Síochána and which we would normally get from members of the Garda Síochána who have a compassionate and humanitarian approach when dealing with this problem because their job does not depend just on results and getting rid of these fellows, as it does with the individual mentioned here. He is paid by results. A member of the Garda goes on whether he gets results or not.
We are resisting the Minister's attempt to permit under this section the development of the kind of situation which was found in the United States, in New York and in London in the days of Rachmann, the slum tenement landlord exploitation, where they were able in New York to hire a crowd of psychopaths, bullies, criminals without any standards or values of any kind, only concerned to make whatever few dollars were offered, who would do anything for it, who were sent along to a particular property and were told to occupy that property and so make hell for the people in that property that the property would be eventually evacuated by an unfortunate family who could not continue to withstand the tyranny of these thugs sent in by an individual of the Rachmannite type.
The Minister knows well that much the same story happened in London where in the appalling scandal of the exploitation of housing shortages  similar to here, a few years ago, due to Government negligence, equally, of course, completely irresponsible criminals, unfortunate people who did not know any better—I am not judging them—were sent along with pick handles and Alsatian dogs, by people who could afford to hire them and pay them, to tyrannise the people living in the tenements so that either they paid extortionate rents or got out. This is precisely the same development in our legislation here, if the Minister had his way.
We have these people able to go along, without any way in which they can be dealt with. With a member of the Garda Síochána we know well that because of his uniform he is a member of the Garda Síochána. We know well, also, that when we see a member of the Garda Síochána coming along we can expect a particular standard, a particular tradition. He is as much a custodian of that tradition of reasonable, fair play for everybody, and is as conscious of his need to behave with concern and even balance in dealing with this problem as were his predecessors in the force who created the type of reputation upon which we base our assumption that they will deal reasonably and fairly in any set of circumstances.
In particular I recall in the Hume Street incident, as I mentioned earlier where there was a tremendous temptation, the property owners at the time wanted to get possession and the Garda stood firm and said: “No. We have no authority to do any more than we are doing now. If there is a breach of the peace we will step in but up to that any further than that we cannot go.” That, of course, implied an enormous number of things. It meant that this man was conscious, first of all, that he was not in the employment of an Irish Rachmann or a Dutch or Danish Rachmann; he was an employee of the community and had a responsibility to the community and to Parliament and to the people in the house as well as a responsibility even to the man who owned the property. But, it was a jointly owned responsibility. He was nobody's prisoner. He was responsible to every one of us. These people mentioned in the Minister's  Bill are responsible only to the man with the cheque book. The man with the cheque book knows and cares little about law enforcement other than how it concerns himself, knows little about the rights of the individual in the house or people involved in supporting the people in the house, and cares less. The garda, on the other hand, must see that the law is carried out and the person in the house has a number of safeguards. The garda is identified, first of all, by his uniform and, fortunately, here in Ireland unlike some other countries, we are not afraid to look to the police for protection. We know that we can turn to them for protection if we are threatened physically. Not only that but we know also that the garda is a member of a disciplined force that has an honourable tradition behind it. We know that he was only inducted into the Force after very stringent and high level tests in relation to his education, to his general background, general behaviour——
Dr. Browne: ——and his general attitude to this whole question of the enforcement of the law. Broadly, there are two different kinds of people who like to enforce the law. There is the public spirited individual who decides that the general position, status and prestige of a member of the Garda and the emoluments provide a satisfactory style of life so far as he is concerned and that it is as a member of that Force that he would like to serve his country. There is the other kind of person seeking to enforce the law—the person who is of the bullying type and who wants to assert himself. He loves the idea of a uniform and of being able to order people to do this or that. He is the aggressive type of person whose aggressive attitudes to his fellow citizens may entail tendencies to assault citizens because he is aroused easily and lashes out at the person whom he believes is preventing him, deliberately, from having his way.
A member of the Garda needs to be a person who is particularly mature in personality. He must be able to meet  a family of this kind and to be able to assess, judge and decide on the emotional stress, the sense of futility, of humiliation, of failure and of agonising distress that is gnawing at this unfortunate family. The mature garda will know if this is the type of family with whom he is dealing and that the individuals may be unnecessarily aggressive in their attitude to him and refuse to co-operate. This could lead to a very difficult situation. It is for the trained member of the Garda Síochána to explain to the person the position as he sees it, to judge the situation as he sees it and to decide whether he can handle it on his own and if not, how much help he needs. If the position becomes particularly difficult and tends to get out of hand and he realises he must use some sort of restraint in order to achieve the particular objective, he is skilled in the methods in which one can use force and not injure or hurt the individuals on whom he is using such force. That is part of the expert knowledge of a civilised and sophisticated law enforcement body and the Minister is asking us to set aside this very important quality in members of the Garda and replace it by any individual who happens to be in need of money and is willing to make it in this rather disreputable and sordid way. A member of the Garda will have to know if he is really dealing with a genuine case of a person who is disturbed emotionally because of distress or a person who might be disturbed mentally and who requires care and attention but at all times the person who is put into this awkward and difficult situation should be a person who is well able to carry out the duties involved. The person with whom the garda is dealing may have had too much to drink or may have suffered an accident as a result of which he would not be aware that he was in a particular building but a garda would have special training in the recognition of conditions of this kind and would be well able to deal with such situations.
As well as that, a garda is bound by a number of very important and very rigid provisions not only to safeguard himself and safeguard us as  members of the community but, above all, to safeguard the rights of the particular individual with whom he is dealing. If a person resists, the garda knows what is the law.
Dr. Browne: We are being asked to allow the person who owns the property, by reason of the fact that he has sufficient money with which to buy it, to set aside a provision which normally would entail sending along a member of the Garda.
Dr. Browne: The Minister is making it possible for any individual to be sent along to a property and exercise there the rights of ownership. The right of ownership in this context in our view is the right to claim possession of a property which he believes is wrongfully occupied. We believe that this power should not be entrusted simply to any individual. We believe that it should be entrusted only to a person who is skilled and experienced in the exercise of this very difficult and frequently distasteful function of law enforcement.
We know that the individual in the ordinary case if he is breaking the law has the right to be told that he is breaking the law. He should be told the law that he is breaking and he should then be told that if he continues  to break the law a certain set of procedures must follow from that. These are procedures which we have laid down in this House. They have nothing to do with strong-arm tactics or pick axe handles or bullyboy tactics of any kind. They are ones which protect the community, protect property rights but also they protect the individual who is alleged to be breaking the law. In that set of circumstances there is no need at all to use forceful tactics because the police or the law enforcement officers have the right to go along to a police station and seek a warrant. They have a right to bring the person to the police station, to bring him before a sergeant, to make a charge, to explain the meaning of the charge, to explain the section of the Act, to explain the provisions of the Act, to explain the penalties involved before the court in the police station.
Dr. Browne: Yes, Sir. We are discussing the procedure which an individual who alleges he owns a property, by right of having purchased that property because he happens to have the money to do so, may adopt, if this section is passed, to reclaim that property. This is a most important diversion from the ordinary procedure of law enforcement and indeed in relation to the recovery of property. What I am trying to make clear is the extreme fairness of the correct procedure as laid down by this House as opposed to the procedure which was, in fact, adopted in the case of Hume Street where strong-arm bullyboys went along with their pick axe handles and physically assaulted an unfortunate girl, knocked her to the ground and later, to the credit of the House and the Garda, the Department and all of us who form the laws, were brought to justice and dealt with as they  deserved.
That is now being effectively set aside. We will not have the same protection from these kind of people. On that occasion we had the clear case of the activity of a member of the Garda Síochána who refused to intervene. These other people because they were paid went in and tried to take forcible possession. The Garda would bring the person to a police station, charge him and would be subject to all the consequences of making a bad case, a false charge.
Dr. Browne: You will not mind, Sir, if I return the compliment because if you do read it you will find that the Minister here is trying to introduce a provision which will allow a man who owns property to employ effectively a private army, a private police force, to go and enforce what he considers to be his just right to take possession of a piece of property. Our case is that a person should only be given this tremendous authority and power if he has experience, knowledge, patience and the legal authority and the knowledge of his legal rights which members of the Garda Síochána have because unlike the private army people the gardaí are men who themselves are subject to very strict discipline. A member of the Garda Síochána can be  fined, he can be demoted, he can lose his right to promotion, he can be transferred down the country, if in the opinion of his higher officers he is in breach of his correct function as a member of the Garda Síochána. None of these sanctions exist in relation to this other kind of individual, the member of this supernumerary police force which it is proposed to introduce under this apparently innocuous section.
We saw the beginning of this at the last general election. I was quite astonished to see all these private policemen in their own special uniform running round behind the platform of the final rally of Fianna Fáil. They appeared to need them; we did not. This is the beginning of this kind of development. It is this sort of employment of private individuals to enforce the law which was the origin of all the terrible dictatorships—the Hitler Youth, the Mussolini castor oil gangs, the Falangists in Spain, and so on. This is exactly the same very dangerous deterioration in the whole democratic nature of our society. These people must be answerable to us, the community, the people who legislate for them. In my own case a long time ago when we had difficulty in a position of this kind we were able to come to the Dáil and put down questions and we were able to get satisfaction to a certain extent because at least we had this particular hold over the people who discharged this very difficult and rather distasteful function. We had this power of control and they knew that in the last analysis they were answerable to the commissioner, the Minister and ultimately to this House. Surely these are infinitely preferable, more desirable safeguards which should be retained and should not be diluted in any way by this provision which allows anybody to act in this sort of peace keeping capacity. Somebody mentioned the likelihood of completely irresponsible behaviour by individuals of this kind: you might have them going along knowing there was a provision that the cost of eviction would eventually be charged to the people who were the source of the eviction, and doing untold damage to doors or windows, ceiling or floors or even smashing the windows or trying  to smoke the people out by setting fire to the property or turning hoses on them, or using tear gas or CS gas, to enforce what they believed was the right of the particular individual who happened to have sufficient money to pay them so that they could get possession of the property for him and make the few pounds which would fall to them if they succeeded.
This is a very serious and dangerous departure from the present system which, with all its faults, has satisfied most of us over the years. On the whole, it is one that we have been able to control, one in which we held the final sanction, one in which we insisted on seeing that certain standards were laid down in regard to recruitment and training. Because we did that, we have a Garda force of which most of us are very proud. As in every profession and section of society there are cases where unpleasant things happen but generally speaking it is a force of the highest standard, dependable, reliable and anxious to see that justice is done to everybody.
We now have the extraordinary position of the evolution of the private army being permitted. We heard from an exponent of that general principle, Deputy Gallagher, a man with his own knowledge and experience of the property market, and his general case was that even if starving you should not steal a loaf of bread. Even a homeless family presumably should not have a home. He would feel perfectly justified in insisting that somebody should take action no matter what the circumstances because of his particular values and standards. Under this section he would be allowed and encouraged to enforce this through the use of a private army.
The community is in a very dangerous situation at present because of this threat of different private armies. It seems extraordinary to me that on the one hand we should have the Government introducing a provision which would allow the creation and formation of private armies and private police forces for the protection of the rights of speculators, property owners, industrialists and wealthy groups of one kind or another, and at the same time  have this panic stations situation in which the Government appear to be seriously considering the reopening of the internment camps for other private armies which protest that they are anxious to look after the workers, those on strike or locked out or whatever it is. They have made their case for creating their private army. The Government are now making their case for creating this private army on behalf of the people they are anxious to protect.
What right has anybody in the Government, what right has the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Justice to go to the country and say: “I want to create private armies for these people and private police forces but I do not agree with the other people and I am going to lock them up.” Surely there is a most wilful and irresponsible level of confusion in the attitude of the Government on these issues. We hope the Minister will have second thoughts about the dangers of this provision and accept our amendment.
Mr. Cooney: I support this amendment. This is the definition of “owner” which the amendment seeks to change. It is a very wide definition. It includes the lawful occupier, every person lawfully entitled to the immediate use and enjoyment of unoccupied land, any person having an estate or interest in land, including a person who remains in occupation after the determination of his tenancy therein, the owner of a servient tenement, the owner of an easement and then the words to which the amendment objects “any person acting on behalf of the owner”.
The objections are well founded because widening the definition to that extent permits all sorts of persons to be appointed as owners by the real owner. It envisages a situation where what I would call, in lay language, the real owner does not want to act in relation to his property, or in relation to the situation which arises and which might be contemplated by this Bill, and in order to avoid having to do the dirty work himself he can take advantage of this wide definition and employ others to do it for him. The fact that  this could be the effect is envisaged when I refer to section 6 which assumes or implies that an owner may have to use force in clearing his premises and may cause damage to his property in doing so. The temptation is there, in fact an invitation is there, to an owner who is dealing with persons whom he alleges are in forcible occupation to employ thugs to do his dirty work for him. Those thugs, unless this amendment is accepted, will be regarded under this Bill when it becomes an Act as being owners of the property. It is altogether reprehensible that such a situation could follow from any legislation passed by a democratic Parliament.
When Deputy Fitzpatrick spoke on the rights of fee farm grantors and suggested that such persons should be in some way controlled, the Minister was not prepared to concede anything on that point. He said it was something rare that would not be relevant in our circumstances. May I point out to the Minister that the fee farm grantor type of owner is very common and far from being a remote type of ownership in relation to property, is quite near? It is a real and live ownership in property because it arises in practically every case in this country by virtue of a conversion made under the Renewable Leasehold Conversion Act of 1849. Prior to that Act a very common type of lease was a lease for life, renewable forever. Many difficulties arose when a life would fall in and it might not be known that there was need to renew the lease. Consequently, a difficult legal position could arise as to whether the lessee was entitled to look for renewal.
This Act was passed to clarify the position. It gave all the lessees under such leases the power to call for the conversion of their lease into an estate in fee simple, subject to a fee farm rent. It is a kind of title unique to this country but it is a lease in the sense that it contains all the incidence of a lease. On conversion all the covenants which applied to the lease now apply to the fee farm grant and the owner of the fee farm grant is in the same position as the lessee. To suggest, as the Minister did, that Deputy Fitzpatrick  was quoting something extreme is quite wrong.
The owner of the fee farm grant and anyone deputed by him can act in relation to a property the subject of such a grant with all the force of a lessee because the fee farm grantor— the person who has to give the grant under the provisions of this Bill—in effect remains a lessor. He is entitled to all the remedies which a lessor would have had under the lease which has been converted. He is entitled to proceed for ejectment for nonpayment of rent, he can distrain for arrears of rent, he can have an action of debt and all the other ways and means, the remedies, suits or otherwise, by which the rent service reserved on his lease is recoverable. All these things give that person considerable power in relation to the property. They give similar powers to the people that person might depute to act on his behalf, unless the definition of “owner” is changed, as sought by Deputy Pattison's amendment. It is unreal of the Minister to say that Deputy Fitzpatrick's example of quoting the powers of a fee farm grantor arriving from the Bahamas and enforcing his rights is not realistic. This is quite realistic. “Owner” has a wide meaning in this definition.
Mr. Cooney: I was pointing out how wide is the definition of “owner” within the Act. It includes any person having an estate or interest in land. It does not have to be an estate or interest in possession. To my mind it is quite adequate and wide enough to do anything that might need to be done under this Act. It makes it even wider by stating that such a person can appoint a person to act on his behalf and that the person so appointed will be an owner and, consequently, will be free from any of the sanctions imposed under this Bill for any alleged offence.
 Every person seised of or entitled at Law or in Equity to the Reversion expectant on any Lease in Perpetuity as Tenant in Fee Simple or in Fee Tail, General or Special, or as Tenant in Dower or by the Curtesy, or for Life or Lives, or for Years determinable on a Life or Lives, or for a Term of Years absolute of which Forty Years or more are unexpired at the Time of the Applicaaion for a Grant under this Act.
If there is a conversion as provided by the Act, all these peculiar reversions could be owners, as the definition stands. Consequently, each of these peculiar persons could appoint someone else to act on his behalf. It could be executors in certain positions, even executors pour autre Vie, it could be trustees or other types of peculiar oddities and each one of these obscure, unreal persons would have the right to nominate some other person to act on his behalf. How unreal can one be in legislation when such a situation can exist?
What it will mean in practice is that these remote owners, the gentlemen in the Bahamas, will come over to this country to see about ancestral property rights and they can employ an agent, a bailiff, a thug, or a bullyboy, and that person is protected by the Prohibition of Forcible Entry and Occupation Bill, 1970. I do not think that would be the Minister's intention but that will be the result unless this amendment is accepted. There should not have to be an argument about this. It should be plain and obvious that such a result could arise from legislation such as this. In order to do justice the Minister should—as he said judges may sometimes have to do— lean backwards to accept this amendment.
There was a situation in which there was ejectment of a permissive occupier of a gate lodge outside Tullamore—I referred to this matter earlier today. The occupants had been in possession of the gate lodge for many generations. There was a change of ownership and the present owner decided he wanted possession. I do not know if the gates were not opened quickly enough, but I am sure he had a good  reason to seek possession of the gate lodge. The people in the lodge did not want to go—one of them was in hospital at the time. An ejectment took place as a result.
That ejectment took place in the full glare and publicity of the civil law as it stands. The civil law was adequate for the owner if he wanted to take his remedy. When this Bill becomes law, that owner will not have to submit himself to the glare of publicity of the civil law and to the ignominy and odium of acting like a 19th century landlord in 20th century Ireland. He can employ thugs and bullyboys and tell them to clear the cottage for him. They can go in and eject the occupants without going near any court. They are protected because they are owners within the meaning of this definition. If that situation can arise, I think it reinforces, if reinforcement was necessary, the need for this amendment to be accepted.
Again this Act envisages that troublesome situations can arise because it makes provision for damage being caused on such ejectment taking place. There is no doubt that it is an old common law right that every man has the right to clear his own home of a trespasser and to use whatever force is reasonably necessary to do so, but this goes much further than that. It encourages unscrupulous owners, in the situation to which I have referred, to hire a private army to clear the premises. The situation can also apply in the case of a fishery or a shoot, because the owner of a fishery and the owner of shooting rights are owners within the meaning of the section, and if they employ bailiffs or beaters, ghillies—anybody in that regard—and pay them well enough, those persons are for the purposes again of this section owners and are fully protected in relation to anything which may be done under this Bill.
I am not surprised that the amendment will not be accepted because the amendment seeks to remove some of the more repressive features, some of the totalitarian overtones of this Bill and the Government are quite determined to ensure that this Bill in all its manifestations will become part of our law and  this very desirable amendment which seeks to remove the temptation for property owners to build up private armies of bullyboys will not be accepted. That temptation is being left in the Bill, and not merely is there a temptation but there is a positive inducement for them to do that by the section which says that if these vicarious owners, if I might so call them, cause damage in attempting to take possession of land or vehicle, that damage will have to be paid for by the person they are ejecting.
I would like to support Deputy Dr. Browne when he says that the only persons in this country who should be in the position to assist in a matter of that nature should be the Garda Síochána, a uniformed and disciplined Force, a Force that has the respect of the community, but a Force whose morals and sense of discipline have been seriously threatened, and will be more seriously threatened in the future if they see legislation enacted which permits the recruitment and employment of private armies whereby they see their function being usurped and a Force whose discipline and morale unfortunately are being eroded by the existence of private armies already. Anything that goes any further in that direction should be avoided and avoided rigorously.
If the Minister accepts this amendment, he is not in any way weakening the definition of “owner”, which, as I already pointed out, is extremely wide. It could not literally be any wider and what the Minister wants to do is to allow the employment of any sort of an agent to do work which the owner himself is not prepared to do. I cannot see any other reason for it. The only other reason is that the owner might not be present or it might not be suitable for the owner to act. In other words, it is to benefit an absentee owner, and I do not think that this House in the situations which we all envisage can arise under this Bill should be asked to benefit an absentee owner. If his property means so much to him that the sanctions of this Bill have to be enforced to protect it, it behoves that owner to be there present himself to see that those sanctions  are enforced or to request their enforcement.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair is only concerned with the rules of order. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary and other Deputies would desist at this stage and allow the Deputy in possession to proceed. Any Deputy who wishes to offer will get the opportunity.
Mr. Cooney: This Bill is what I might call a sensitive Bill with certain Members opposite. They have gone so far and are so committed to it without realising how really nefarious it is that they are now becoming a little oversensitive about it. They may at this stage recover some of the ground lost in propounding it by agreeing to some of these reasonable amendments. This amendment by Deputy Patterson is most reasonable. In the situation suggested by Deputy Sherwin, an owner has his civil remedy and our case all along has been that there is no need to invoke the criminal law to enforce property rights. If the civil law were streamlined and updated and if enough judges were appointed so that the civil remedy could be easily and cheaply made available, there would be no justification at all for this. Certainly in the odd case of the invalid owner, I do not think there is any justification for bringing in a definition which allows the creation in this country of a private army or private bullyboys, and we have seen it happen.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair would point out to Deputies that we are on the stage of a Bill on which a Deputy may speak once, except the Deputy proposing the amendment who has the right to reply. If Deputies are to indulge in question and answer across the House, the Chair is not able to control the debate.
Mr. Cooney: There is not very much left for me to say—I think I have made the point that the words which it is sought to delete should be deleted. Their deletion will not do any harm to the intention of the Bill, but they can do harm if they are left in because they can encourage absentee landlords, or indeed landlords who are already on the spot, to recruit their own private armies. We have seen a tendency to this already—Deputy Dr. Browne referred to it—in regard to the Hume St. incident when one of these private armies invaded a premises and committed assault. If that is the type of thing the Government want to encourage, and they are encouraging it, wittingly or unwittingly—and wittingly, I am afraid, is the position—they are encouraging it if they retain these words in the section whereby an owner or anybody acting on his behalf becomes an owner. I suggest that these words should be deleted.
Mr. Carter: I have listened to Deputy Dr. Browne's speech and to a number of other speeches, including that of Deputy Cooney, and I would point out to Deputy Cooney in relation to the last remark he made that if there is an assault, it can be dealt with under common law. I do not see any intention behind the Bill to found, for example, a private army. I detect, though, a great note of hysteria and a good deal of misrepresentation in the remarks on this Bill. I also detect the attitude, the cynical sort of attitude, that it seems to be a crime to be able to  buy a house. I also detect the tracks of those who engaged in the politics of the streets before they came in here. I also detect an intention behind the speeches——
Mr. Carter: It is as relevant as Deputy Dr. Browne's remarks. He made a Second Reading speech on this Stage of the Bill. I want to assure the Deputy that I will be as relevant as he will be when he speaks.
Mr. Carter: Those of us who have been watching this attempt to interfere with the normal procedure of the law over the past few years also detect a move on behalf of those who represent the lawbreakers to shelter behind a number of terms like distress, anguish, homelessness, poverty, and so on. This Bill is being represented here as a cover for landlordism and Rachmanism. Coupled with that, it is being represented as marking the occasion of the introduction of private armies. It is very hard to relate, or equate for that matter, calls for the preservation of law and order with some of the speeches we heard here tonight.
Mr. T.J. Fitzpatrick: (Cavan): I know this is a difficult and very technical Bill but I do not think that the Deputy has spoken one word on amendment No. 5 since he stood up. He is making a Second Reading speech, I submit with the greatest respect.
Mr. Carter: ——especially when it is reasonable law and especially when the law which it is sought to enforce is not encroaching on those who keep the law. Of course, it is not pleasant for those who want to break the law with impunity. I have heard here tonight law breakers being turned into angels, as it were. I have heard here tonight speeches which belittle and decry the efforts of private enterprise and which belittle the fact that a man is able to buy his own house. I have not heard of this being a crime in any other country but it seems to be a crime here now according to the speakers from those benches. I suspect that this is a deliberate attempt to put about the idea that, in seeking to enact a law which will prevent certain of those law breakers from going scot free——
Mr. Carter: This series of amendments is being used to cloak the real aim of the Bill. Is it suggested, for example, that any Minister for Justice should fall back on an Act of 1381 in order to enforce the law and to give property the measure of protection which it deserves, after all? It is suggested, for example, that a Minister for  Justice should fall back on an Act of ten years later, 1391, to enforce the law against forcible entry at present? It would be like going back to the days of the wooden plough and the ox.
In 1381, we had no squatters of the description we have abroad today. We had plently of homeless people. Is it further suggested that a later Act of 1429 would be calculated to help the Government or the Minister for Justice to preserve the law? Is it suggested that a later Act, of our own Parliament I think, of 1786 would be of any benefit in dealing with the type of forcible entry of which we are aware in present circumstances? Surely it is not suggested that the one section in the Housing Act, 1970, which relates to this matter would be calculated to deal with lawlessness of this description. We have heard a number of speeches here praising the Garda Síochána. We have heard other speeches in the past, following parades in this city——
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy will appreciate that the Chair has permitted him to reply to points raised but the Chair would remind the Deputy that he must come back now to the definition section and the particular amendment dealing with the limitation of owner.
Mr. O'Malley: ——apparently are not? I say this in fairness to Deputy Carter because he has not ranged any more widely than a number of speakers before him and I have listened all day to this rubbish from the benches opposite.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair has permitted Deputy Carter to reply to the points raised. The Chair is now directing the attention of the Deputy to the amendment which is dealing with limitation of owner.
Mr. Carter: I was dealing with some of the points raised in the course of this lengthy debate and I was saying that there is a deliberate attempt to misrepresent the aim of the Bill and to turn it into something——
Mr. Carter: ——which it is not, in fact, designed to be. We are all aware of the necessity for houses. We are all aware of the desirability of housing people as quickly as the resources of the State will permit. We are fully aware that 14,000 houses were erected last year. Taking this into account, our submission is that, apart from this Bill altogether——
Mr. Carter: I submit this Bill is designed to tidy up the law, to prevent lawbreaking and the destruction of public property. It is not designed to create private armies. It is not designed to hire bullyboys or to enable an owner to do so. It it not designed, or thought up, to intimidate the homeless. It is not thought up to cause perturbation or to engender anguish. The aim of the Bill is, as I say, to find a partial answer to the tactics of the street politicians, the people who would bypass this House, tear down all that it  stands for and, in pursuing these tactics, destroy property as well.
We can all appreciate the anguish and the desire of the father of a family who has no house to become a tenant of a house but it is very difficult in that context to understand the squatter who gathers the bullyboys around him, breaks into private property, occupies it and, incidentally, cannot be ejected from it. I want to put a fair question to the House: are we in favour of private ownership of any description because I got the impression here tonight from those who spoke that we are not? Those who spoke would promote the idea that it is a crime to own any private property, that it is a crime to buy a house——
Mr. Carter: ——that it is a crime to have the money to buy a house, that it is a crime, in fact, to be able to raise a loan to buy a house, that it is a crime to get a grant to build a house. This is the sort of conversation we heard before, a long time ago.
Mr. Carter: We were told the Government were too lax, that they should deal with the various organisations because  the law was not being enforced. These were the calls from Fine Gael which I read in nearly every paper I took up last winter. If I had a researcher I would be able to get enough cuttings to make a speech which would last for a month. It is very hard to relate that attitude to the attitude we have here tonight. It is very hard to think in the same terms when one listens to the deliberate, destructive speeches which have been made in relation to this Bill.
Our attention has been drawn to the fact that there were squatters in London—144 Piccadilly Circus was the highlight of the squatters outing last year. There were squatters in Birmingham, Glasgow and, of course, in Dublin. When we try to come to terms with the politics of the street and the squatters it is said that we are heading towards a dictatorship, that we are by-passing this House and that we are not observing the laws of democracy. It is fair to inquire from those people who are so fond of street politics and at the same time of this House, and who make those speeches, whether or not they believe in a democracy and whether they prefer the politics of this House to those of the street? That is a fair question.
Mr. Carter: I am stating a fact when I say that amendment No. 5, as well as other amendments, is designed to weaken this Bill and leave it finally emasculated and not worth the paper it is written on. Each amendment here is designed for this purpose. It is my submission that if we are to preserve the rule of law or to have any regard for or interest in the rights of property then we must ensure that those who own private property will not be molested by any organised gang, whether this is an organised gang subscribing to the aim of squatting or whether it is an organised gang with any other evil design against the State or against property. When we try to formulate legislation which is designed to curb this activity it should get a fair reading. It appears to me that from the very start that this Bill has not got a fair reading; the aim of every section in the Bill has been misrepresented and twisted in order to convince the public that we are on the road to setting up a dictatorship. Any person, whether he be a labourer or professional man who works here, observes the law, pays his rates, rent and taxes and builds a house whether for himself and his family or for letting, should be protected by this House and by the forces of law in the State.
Mr. Carter: There are many sorts of owners of property, from labouring men to professionals. Who is to compensate the owner of a house which is invaded by a gang of squatters— who usually have all the trappings of deprivation, a certain amount of poverty, a certain amount of anguish— who set upon a house, forcibly occupy it for as long as they like, do as much damage as they like and get away scot free? Where will he get compensation? Where can he even take out an insurance policy that would make him immune from this type of private army? I have been listening for so long to talk about private armies but let us now turn it upside down and call some of the squatters who are led by professional agitators a private army. When we try to come to grips in a realistic way with those private armies then the manipulators try to turn the tables on us and they call us fascists. Some of them even dub us followers of Dr. Castro.
Mr. Carter: They do not mention Nasser, funnily enough, but they take in nearly every other name they can think of in an attempt to blacken the image of the Bill and, incidentially, the Minister who is sponsoring the Bill. It should go forth from this House—from those fo us who have some small interest——
Mr. Carter: It is designed to water down this Bill so that it would not  achieve the aim which it is intended it should achieve. I am entitled to defend the aim of the Bill and the right of a property owner to hold his property without let or hindrance and to have the law available to him to repulse professional street politicians and agitators——
Mr. Carter: ——being owners themselves of private property who at the same time go out and make fiery speeches calculated to disturb the community, to create a nuisance and in turn, which is a good deal worse, to destroy some man's house. We have witnessed enough of this type of activity. We have borne witness to it for the last two years and I would submit that not merely is the house which some of those alleged squatters occupy destroyed——
Mr. Carter: They find it very hard to take it. They love to be able to hand it out. They are as soft as the flesh on a goose's belly. I should like to round off my few remarks by asserting our intention, which is the intention behind this Bill. The Minister for Justice, in presenting this Bill to the House, is doing nothing more nor less than trying to preserve property which  would otherwise be destroyed under a new name developing here—squatting.
Dr. O'Donovan: I do not intend following the preceding speaker over ground as widely ranging as he covered but I intend speaking broadly on the amendment. In relation to the Bill as it stands I am asking whether in this section which we propose to amend, the word “caravan” is a vehicle or a house? This is a most important question. The second question I wish to ask is whether the word “land” as it is used here in the words we propose to delete——
Dr. O'Donovan: I am construing the amendment. These are the very words of the amendment. Does the word “land” include unoccupied land and is any unfortunate itinerant who may set up his caravan on unoccupied land to be the subject of abuse and to be kicked around in the way in which itinerants have been in the past in parts of this country that are represented strongly on the benches opposite?
Dr. O'Donovan: I know this much —there is a long tradition that people who own property give others the right to walk over it and that is something that the Government are trying to destroy in this Bill. There is a long tradition in my family of allowing people to walk over their land.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair has pointed out repeatedly to  Deputies that the vocations or pursuits of persons should not be brought into question. Interruptions from any side of the House are not in order.
Dr. O'Donovan: For the benefit of the Deputies who have just arrived I wish to mention again the two questions that I have asked. Are we to understand that the word “land” here includes unoccupied land and, secondly, is a caravan a vehicle or a house? Perhaps Deputy Burke would be able to deal with that point.
Dr. O'Donovan: Deputy Carter spoke about the Bill and the Minister being misrepresented because we propose to take out of this Bill the right of an owner to apply bullyboy tactics. Under the existing law there is nothing to prevent an owner or somebody acting on his behalf from dealing with such matters. What is the purpose of this Bill? It is nothing but a piece of Fascism and it is being handled by a Fascist Minister.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair would again point out that certainly he is not getting much help from Deputies with regard to the conduct of the business of the House. Interruptions are disorderly.
Dr. O'Donovan: The purpose of the amendment is to take out of the Bill a specific right that is being put into it but which was not in the law previously, that is, the right to employ a group of people, to arm them with cudgels, to send them to land on  which people may be taking shelter for the night and throw these unfortunate people out forcibly. The word “forcibly” is used in the Bill. Of course, it is used in reverse. We all know what has been happening——
Dr. O'Donovan: I appreciate that. Deputy Carter spoke about the type of forcible entry of which we are aware and then went on to say, quite correctly, that many houses were built last year. If this Bill has any purpose, the Minister is two or three years late in introducing it. He is displaying bullyboy mentality in introducing such legislation. There is no squatting in this city at the moment and I challenge the Minister to prove that there is. The only squatting in this city, which is the only part of the country where it was ever worthwhile squatting, is squatting in a few cases by nieces, nephews or grandchildren of corporation tenants who have gone into houses but who are prepared to pay rent for them.
Dr. O'Donovan: Listening to Deputy Carter tonight it occurred to me that he has replaced the former Deputy Boland as the man who attempted continuously to reduce this party and pretend we were something that we are not.
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